The Adventures of Clark Kent|
"Great Caesar's ghost! Where is he?"
Perry White, gruff editor-in-chief of The Daily Planet, Metropolis's number one newspaper in both circulation and advertising revenue, released his thumb from the intercom and walked to the window. Gazing out at the spectacular forty-fourth floor view, Perry mulled over the Clark Kent situation. His "ace" reporter had been showing up late, turning in his stories at the last minute, and just plain acting irresponsibly. And, worst of all, it was beginning to affect his writing. Once, Perry considered giving Kent his own column -- but not anymore. And now, when he wanted him, Kent was nowhere to be found.
Perry's attention was soon drawn to an object, no bigger than a tiny speck in the distant sky, but moving very fast. Was it a bird? Was it a plane? He stared at it for quite awhile until, finally, it came close enough to determine that it was, indeed, a bird. A big one, too. Maybe a hawk.
"You wanted to see me, chief?" Perry spun around and there he was, Clark Kent, appearing as if from out of nowhere.
"Yes I did -- and don't call me chief! Great Caesar's ghost!"
"Sorry sir, I... "
"Listen to me, Kent. Lois is out of town on a special assignment. I want you to fill in for her. How much do you know about magic, mysticism, witchcraft?"
"I'm a fast learner."
"Good, because the Witchcraft and Magic Show is at the convention center and it closes in two hours. We need a little puff piece on it. Better take a cab."
"Will the Planet pay for it?" Clark, though no genius, was neither a fool.
Perry thought it over. "Oh, all right. This time."
"Don't call me chief!" Perry screamed, but Clark was already halfway down the hall to the men's room. Once there, he looked around nervously, like a deer in the woods, then ducked inside. Extremely self-conscious, Clark always had to have privacy when he relieved himself -- and he always had to relieve himself whenever he got excited. Why was he excited? Maybe it was the chance to make a few extra bucks. (Instead of taking a taxi, he'd get a blank receipt from one of his cabby friends and cash in his healthy "bonus" later.) In the meantime, his blue-with-red-trim Mercedes 450SLE convertible was waiting in the garage, just raring to be let loose on the streets of Metropolis. He loved that car -- the way it made him feel like he was almost, well, flying. Then, just when things were looking good, Jimmy Olson entered.
"Hiya Mr. Kent!"
"Hi kid." Please don't ask me where I'm going, Clark thought, flushing. He didn't hate Jimmy. He just found the cub reporter a little annoying.
"Where ya goin'?"
"Convention center. Puff piece on the Witchcraft and Magic show. Bor-r-r-ing."
"Really? Gee whillikers, I think that would be exciting!" Jimmy gushed.
Please don't ask me to take you along, Clark thought, zipping up his fly.
"Mr. Kent -- could I, I mean, would it be okay if I... ?"
"Oh all right, kid, you can come along. But, believe me, it's no big deal."
"Okay, I'll go, but what I really wanted to know was if I could borrow your computer later -- to write up a story... Mr. Kent?"
"Oh, yeah... yeah."
"Witches, warlocks, psychics, fortune tellers -- do you believe in any of this stuff?" Jimmy asked. They were passing a booth displaying "exotic" and "magic" crystals.
"I'm not a believer," Clark intoned flatly.
"Not in... anything?"
"Put it this way, kid: I don't believe in con men who prey upon an unsuspecting public."
"Oh, I see... Hey!" Jimmy was distracted by the eerie beauty of a large green crystal. He moved closer.
"It says... 'Kryptonite'. Here, Mr. Kent, catch!" Mischievously, Jimmy picked up the crystal and flipped it to Clark, who -- startled -- caught it and then, just as quickly, dropped it like a hot potato.
"What do you think you're doing, Jimmy? Are you crazy?"
"Sorry, I -- hey -- where'd it go?" The two of them then got on their hands and knees and started looking for it. A moment later a large, menacing figure appeared, and hovered above them.
"Can I... help you?" he asked, as Jimmy crawled about at his feet.
"Oh, gee whillikers, mister... "
"Luther. Rex Luther. This is my booth."
"Oh, gee whillikers Mr. Luther," Jimmy went on, "we're sorry, but I think we lost your, uh -- "
"What he means is," Clark cut in, "we lost my glasses, which we found, so, if you'll excuse us, I think we'll be on our way." Clark then grabbed Jimmy and the two of them made a hasty retreat, leaving a puzzled Rex Luther in their wake.
Once they were at a safe distance Jimmy couldn't contain his curiosity any longer.
"Who was that, Mr. Kent?"
"I don't know," Clark replied, "but he was big."
"Where's Lois?" Jimmy asked, as Clark searched for the nearest exit.
"She's on a special assignment, whatever that means."
"I bet she's in Gotham."
"Gotham?" Clark was surprised. "Why would she go to Gotham?"
"Probably to see -- " Jimmy stopped himself.
"To see... what?" Clark asked. "It's such a depressing place. Isn't it depressing? Why am I asking you? You've never been there, have you?"
"Me? No, Mr. Kent. I've never been out of the Metropolis metropolitan area."
"So, tell me, Jimmy."
"Tell you what?"
"Why did Lois go to Gotham?"
"Well, it's this rich guy, Bruce Wayne."
"Bruce Wayne?" Clark quickly turned sullen. "Bruce Wayne? Never heard of him. I can't understand Lois. I really can't. Come on, let's get out of here."
Entering the vast lobby of the Daily Planet building, Clark decided it was time to shake loose from Jimmy.
"I've gotta make a few phone calls, kid. See you later."
And, faster than a speeding bullet, Clark turned and ran smack into Lois Lane, bowling her over like a ten pin.
"Clark Kent! Watch where you're going!"
"Sorry, I, I -- here -- let me help you up." Clark became an awkward schoolboy whenever he was around Lois. Clumsily, he helped her to her feet.
"I thought you were in Gotham, Lois. Special assignment, right?"
"Well, yes, sort of."
"Sort of? You mean you weren't on a... special assignment?" Clark felt a little funny prying like this, but what if this Bruce Wayne turned out to be a monster? A psychopath? An unstable schizophrenic with dark, satanic tendencies?
"Clark, it was a secret assignment and I can't reveal where I was or whom I was with."
"Whom you were with? You weren't alone?"
"Clark, I don't want to talk about it anymore. Oh, by the way, thanks for filling in for me. Do you have the notes? I'll write the story."
"Here," he grumbled, handing over his small yellow pad with about a half page of scribbling on it. "It's not much," he apologized.
"It doesn't matter. I'll make most of it up." Lois was kidding, of course. She took great pride in her work.
"Kent, come in here. Let's talk." It was time for a little "constructive criticism," as Perry liked to call it.
"Sit down, son." Clark took the straight-backed wooden chair next to the old man's desk, which happened to be the point in the room farthest from the window. (Clark suffered from severe acrophobia and vertigo.)
"Son, do you have any feelings, emotions?"
"Of course I do, Mr. White."
"Then show them, dammit!"
"In your writing! Great Caesar's ghost!" Perry stood up and started pacing around the room. Clark had trouble following him, though -- it was making him nauseous.
"Your writing, Kent. It's been... flat... passive... emotionless. It has no style, no personality. Now I know in some circles this is considered the height of good journalism. Hogwash! If good journalism is simply stating the facts, then we should let the police write the newspaper! The stories, the people -- they should jump off the page, they should grab your attention, they should make you want to continue reading. That's good journalism! That's good writing! But you -- you're holding back, son. You've got to put some guts into it. Show some heart, some feeling!"
Clark wasn't expecting a lecture. "Mr. White, I -- "
"Put some zip into your copy -- and soon -- or I'm going to have to transfer you. To the business page. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, chief -- I mean -- sir."
"Now, where's that story?"
"Lois is doing it. From my notes, of course."
"Good, good. Don't take this as a knock, Kent, but Lois can write rings around you." Perry then slapped Clark on the back, so hard it knocked him off his chair and sent his glasses flying across the room. (Why did he put up with it? Clark asked himself. Was it the money? Of course it was. Stupid question.) Just then, Lois entered, carrying the galleys of her story.
"Clark! Are you all right?"
"He's fine," Perry assured her. She rushed over and was about to pick up his glasses when she looked at Clark, and was struck by something.
"Clark... without your glasses you... you... you look just like that... actor."
"Here, let me have that!" Perry barked, grabbing the galleys out of her hands. Like an old newspaperman -- which he was -- he pored over the copy carefully, thoroughly, raising a critical eyebrow here, cracking an admiring smile there. He liked Lois's writing, that was obvious.
"What do you think?" she asked.
"Not bad, not bad. But, this Rex Luther character. The one with the crystals. Why no quotes from him?"
"That was Jimmy's fault," Clark chimed in. "I think the guy thought we were trying to steal something."
"Steal?" Perry asked. "Why would he think you were trying to steal something?"
"Well, it's a long story, but -- how about that name?"
"What about it?"
"Sounds kind of like Lex Luthor, doesn't it?"
Perry looked at Clark strangely. "Who?"
"Lex Luthor. You know. In the comic books."
"I don't read comic books, Kent! Great Caesar's ghost!"
Two weeks later, Clark was writing for the business page and driving a green Hyundai.
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